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26 April 2012

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Richard Dinnick

RRP: £8.99

Release Date: 30th April 2012

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 26th April 2012

The TARDIS arrives in Siberia near the end of the 19th century as shooting star has falls from the sky. Its arrival heralds a strange illness that effects not only the local population but the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan. The object from the stars brings not only sickness but knowledge so powerful it would be catastrophic in the wrong hands.

With time running out Ian Chesterton must rely on the help of a mysterious wanderer Grigory, a man who believes God has granted him the gift to heal those in need. The stakes are high for Ian as the alien object offers not only answers to save The Doctor but the chance he and Barbara have been waiting for: a way home.

The Wanderer is an interesting Companion Chronicle as it not only a rather good story but a lovely exploration of what it is to be a wanderer who wishes to go home.

The strongest part of this release is the great William Russell, a man with a real gift for narration and character. Whenever I hear a new Ian Chesteron Companion Chronicle I always imagine sitting by the fire with a drink, listening to Ian recount his adventures, such is the quiet brilliance of Russell’s performances. They are special as he is one of the old guard; the original TARDIS team and just listening to him you‘re instantly transported back to that golden era in 1963.

It is not so much a spoiler to reveal Grigory’s true identity as writer, Richard Dinnick piles the clues up to such a degree it would be foolish not to guess this wanderer is the infamous “Mad Monk” Rasputin. In an odd way The Wanderer acts as a sort of origin story for Rasputin, playing with the legend of the man’s supposedly mystical healing powers and gifts of prophecy. Tim Chipping is excellent in the role of Grigory, adding a more troubled and human element to this most vilified of historical figures.

The rest of the story which deals with the alien race responsible for the alien object and the resolution of Rasputin's story are interesting but what really captures your attention is the insight into Ian Chesterton. He is a man who, despite being fascinated by his adventures with The Doctor, is absolutely determined to get home. It is a striking reminder that in recent years, The Doctor’s companions have been so up for adventure it is easy to forget that Ian and Barbara ended up in the TARDIS by accident. They didn’t ask to be wanderers in the fourth dimension; they do not want to be facing death every other day. He wants to be at home, with the familiar and the comforting, such as a pint of beer at the pub or listening to the Test Match Special. Much is made that Ian has Barbara with him, a friendship and someone he loves and values very deeply. Barbara is someone Ian can relate to as they are in this situation together and the outcome at this time is unknown.

Of course we all know that Ian and Barbara will get home but it is fascinating to explore the hope, disappointment and sheer determination that Ian has to get back to his old life.

The Wanderer is an absorbing tale in which, despite its good story and guest star, is more interesting when it focuses on Ian himself.

That said any Companion Chronicle in which William Russell is involved is more than worth your time.

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